Mason Schreck is catching on, figuratively and literally, with the University at Buffalo football team. Chris Ford is working hard to catch up.
The two Medina High products are valued members of the Bulls, though it’s possible only Schreck will be traveling with the Mid-American Conference team when it opens the season a week from today at second-ranked Ohio State.
“I know we’re playing the state team of Ohio and everyone is driving around with Buckeye stickers on their car, but our team is so much closer than last year,” said Schreck, a redshirt freshman tight end. “I’m one of those guys that believes anything can happen. We’re going to go into it open-minded and just do what we do.”
Schreck, a 2012 Medina graduate who also played center on the basketball team that reached the University of Akron Division I Regional final, was a quarterback for the Bees, but was quickly converted to tight end at Buffalo.
He’s listed at 6-foot-5 and 229 pounds, but his weight is actually up to 235. Muscular and athletic, Schreck runs a sub-4.6-second 40-yard dash and is expected to see a lot of action at slot receiver this season.
“He’s a monster athletically,” starting quarterback Joe Licata told The Buffalo News. “He runs a great 40 time, runs the shuttle really well, jumps out of the roof. He’s just one of those kids that’s a freak athletically.”
Ford, a true freshman who missed his entire senior season at Medina after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, isn’t too shabby, either. The defensive lineman is listed at 6-2, 323 pounds by Buffalo, but is actually down to 309 after getting as heavy as 337 following his knee surgery.
Ford, who won the Strongman Award at an offseason camp after benching 225 pounds 17 times and 185 pounds 29 times, could end up getting redshirted, but the Bulls are unlikely to make a final decision on that until the end of the season.
“I’m running, I’m hitting and I’ve fallen down a few times, so it’s been good,” he said. “Taking a year off of anything and getting back into it is not the easiest thing, but as I get my reps, I’m getting better. It’s just getting that feel for it again.”
With each practice, Schreck is getting more comfortable at tight end, where the Bulls are expected to utilize four players, including returning starter Jimmy Gordon, at positions ranging from fullback to H-back to slot receiver.
“The tight end group as a whole is very dynamic,” Schreck said. “A lot of us can be used as hybrid guys flying up the field.
“Coming in, I knew it was going to be a difficult transition because I had played quarterback my whole life, but I wanted to embrace the challenge. The passing game portion of it, being a quarterback helped me out. The blocking was a challenge, and just knowing my assignments, all the little things. It was a struggle my first year, but I’ve come a long way.”
Schreck has the same opinion when it comes to Buffalo as a team. The Bulls were 4-8 overall last season and 3-5 in the MAC East, dropping their overall record to 9-27 over the past three seasons, but Schreck expects them to challenge for the division crown in 2013.
“We’re a bowl team,” he said. “We should definitely be competing for a MAC championship.”
Ford, who is close friends with Schreck and sometimes drives back to Medina with him, is focused more on self-improvement and development after forcing four fumbles and recording two sacks among his 49 tackles as a Medina junior.
“This is how I see it,” Ford said. “Every freshman’s dream is to come in and have a starting position. I’d love to make the traveling team, but I know it would be smart if I got a year redshirting and still got better. It would be a year to get back into it, but I’m definitely still working and trying to get a spot on this team.”
The owner of a 405-pound bench press, the massive Ford has been clocked as fast as 5.2 in the 40, one of several reasons why Buffalo did not withdraw its scholarship offer when he got hurt prior to his senior year at Medina.
“They’re all about people,” Ford said of the coaches and administrators at Buffalo. “They stuck by what they said, so it shows they don’t just say something and not do it.”
If he doesn’t play this year, Ford is hoping to next season make a jump similar to the one currently being executed by Schreck, who is expected to receive significant playing time but who has much bigger goals in mind.
“Since I first started playing with the (youth Medina) Mustangs, I’ve always wanted to do this,” Schreck said. “I thought I was going to play quarterback, but God wants it differently for me. I’m just going to keep busting my butt and trying to reach my dream, which is to play professional football.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.